A smart, offbeat detective story with an entertaining but sinuous plot turn.

READ REVIEW

THE WATER COLUMN

A private investigator for a law firm uncovers a potential conspiracy when she looks into a man’s fatal high-rise plummet in this psychological thriller.

Chicago private eye Lila Piper has a handful of open cases. Despite her workload, her boss, James Patrick Savage, a personal injury lawyer, enlists Lila to investigate an accidental death. It’s an atypical case for the PI but it’s on behalf of Wisconsin dairy farmer Hans Holzinger, an old friend of Savage’s. Hans’ 33-year-old son, Wolf, died in a 16-story fall from an apartment building in Chicago. He was evidently rappelling to his girlfriend Sofia Castellanos’ apartment via a TV cable that ultimately snapped. But Hans insists that Wolf was an avid climber and would have used a rope. Coincidentally, another man, Louis Breem, fell to his death from a Chicago housing complex at almost the same time as Wolf. Lila starts questioning people involved, including Sofia; Breem’s wife, Angela; and Marina Resnick, who allegedly witnessed Wolf’s death. But Lila quickly realizes that there are CIA links to much of the case, even Hans and his dairy farm rival Gus Ambrosia. This screams conspiracy, especially once Lila suspects an international drug cartel has a part in the matter as well. It seems she may be on the right track when someone threatens her family, and more than one individual she’s interviewed dies. At least one of those deaths is an undisputed murder. Though Lila has a natural talent for deduction, the details of this case eventually become more complicated than she ever could have anticipated.  Jane’s (Mondragon, 2016) enthralling and initially conventional detective story gets progressively more complex. Readers learn Lila suffers from “crippling depression”—what she calls a “curse”—that she’s primarily managed with meds and therapy. At the same time, her gradually revealed family history is thorny: Her father went on trial for securities fraud; she lost both parents to cancer; and she’s currently working on a case for her brother, Ulli, an investment banker caught up in a money laundering scheme. But Lila is an intelligent, levelheaded PI, so while some characters scoff at her conspiratorial CIA theory, it’s perfectly logical. She likewise pinpoints a culprit responsible for Wolf’s fall, and her explanation is exhaustive and comprehensible. Supporting characters add to the developing sense of mystery, as some are harboring secrets; others are most likely being deceitful; and Lila has romantic possibilities with two people of varying genders. The work’s prolonged final act is where things truly get convoluted, as a startling genre shift elevates this detective tale into something else entirely. What Lila learns forces her to re-examine her investigation as well as several people and even herself. That said, the author teases the ending throughout the novel, and the elucidating final act, complete with flashbacks, is convincing, even if readers will have an urge to return to Page 1 and read the book again. While some of the later twists suggest drastic changes in the narrative’s direction (or demand further clarification), Jane leaves these revelations vague and open to interpretation. 

A smart, offbeat detective story with an entertaining but sinuous plot turn.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-62289-7

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Roquebrune Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

more